My Treasure Chest of Thoughts

Tammy Gillmore: Reader, Writer, Thinker, Believer, Achiever

My Treasure     Chest     of      Thoughts

On My Mind…

September 4, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Because I have Afive minutes….I am going to write for five minutes!

Life.  Isn’t it just the craziest thing?  And a busy life it is.

Class Schedule

This year, I have five sections of English 12 and one of journalism, all of which are moving right along.

  • English 12:  We are still in the getting-into-school phase.  This week, we have focused on a pre-literacy assessment, and in an attempt to model the upcoming PARCC assessment, we are attempting an online version. Craziness getting all of them to activate their student emails and using Chromebooks (nice!) but which are not what I have been used to within my classroom (I have a class set of mini-computers).  Hoping that next week, we can actually dive into our thematic unit for this nine weeks.
  • Journalism:  This class’s numbers grew, and at the rate that they are producing articles, they will be ready layout and design next week.  Awesome!

Book Club

Very much alive and well for the teachers! Yay!  I am excited!  A bit about our selected reads:

  • Professional Development:  Along with our state’s ASCD group, who is hosting a state-wide book club, twelve of us (all volunteers) will be reading Five Levers to Improve Learning.  This study runs through March and should be managable on teachers’ busy schedules.
  • September:  The group chose Justin Cronin’s The Passage…at my recommendation, one I just passed along from a family member.  I am barely into the novel…will have to share more about that one later.
  • October:  The Finisher by David Baldacci, a young adult novel, will capture our imaginations.  I also recommended this one, hoping to read another engaging novel to recommend to our students.

My five minutes are up…be back soon!  Really want to continue my posts on 20 Literacy Strategies to Meet the Common Core (recommended this book to our academic coach…hoping we will read as an English department!).

Hope your year is off to a happy start!  Happy New School Year!

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Strategy 2 to Meet The Common Core

July 21, 2014 · No Comments · book review, Common Core, Professional Books

Today’s showcased strategy from Elaine K. McEwan-Adkins’ and Allyson J. Burnett’s professional development book entitle 20 Literacy Strategies to Meet the Common Core is “Show You Know,” which builds on the previous strategy “Read-Decide-Explain.”

Show YOU Know

To prove the students “know,” the authors encourage the use of the technique “telegraphic highlighting,” with the students highlighting the explicit meaning of the assigned chunk of text.  In essence, the students are asked to highlight just as they write much daily, using the short concise messages they create in their text and Twitter posts.  For instance, in a chunk of four sentences, the teacher might ask for ten highlighted words that, yes, summarizes that part of the text.

Following a teacher model, group work, and then independent analysis (reminder:  I switched the author’s order here; they suggest model, student work with teacher, then group work), the students show they know when they work with a partner to create an infoposter (or some other visual aid) relaying what the text explicitly says, followed by an in-class presentation (also a practice of their speaking and listening skills).


I have already used this strategy some in class…just did not use their terminology:  telegraphic, text message, nor did I take it the next step and have them create another document using the information:  a very important step.


Please check here for free reproducibles, including definition list, graphic organizer, and lesson plan (must create an account first) and click here for my thoughts on Strategy 1 “Read-Decide-Explain.”

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Strategy 1 to Meet the Common Core

July 19, 2014 · No Comments · book review, Common Core, Professional Books

20 Literacy Strategies to Meet the Common Core

As part of my professional growth plan for last year, I committed to read 20 Literacy Strategies to Meet the Common Core:  Increasing Rigor in Middle and High School Classrooms (book info and free resources may be found here).  Confession:  I did not finish this book before the end of the school year.  I have…oh, my, I have somewhere near 20 days before our unit planning collaboration day.  Oh, my!  In hopes of no more major interruptions in my life, my plan is to now read this book between now and then and to write a post for each strategy before that date.  Maybe a post…or two…per day.

Book’s Premise

Authors Elaine K. McEwan-Adkins‘ and Allyson J. Burnett‘s goal is to increase secondary students’ reading and comprehension of informational texts, thereby, also, teaching students how to learn, as they assist teachers in adapting strategies that will better enhance student learning.  In what they refer to as a “spiraling curriculum,” they introduce 19 strategies, with strategy 20 culminating in “literacy rehearsal” across the curriculum.

Part 1:  Overview of Key Ideas and Details

This section of the book “presents a set of literacy strategies designed to help your students meet the standards found in the first section of the Common Core College and Career Anchor Standards for Reading…”

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Go back and read slowly…here’s our task:

  1. Teach students to read closely.
  2. Help students determine what the text explicitly states.
  3. Make inferences about implicit meanings.
  4. Learn how to summarize conclusions.
  5. Support all of the above with textual evidence.
  6. Not stated…but needed…enhance vocabulary (explicit, implicit, inferences, summarize, evidence)

Note from myself…Common Core has fewer standards?  Really?  How many skills will have to be taught and retaught just to master any of the above numbered tasks.  Yes…I digress.

The chart on pages 23-24 sums up the above list very nicely.

Strategy #1:  Read-Decide-Explain

Goal:  Students will decide if each sentence….yes, each sentence…assists in answering a teacher-generated question and then explain why or why not.

The premise for this goal is that students need to understand, to comprehend what they are reading.

Mortimar J. Adler (1940) defines comprehension as reading with “x-ray eyes.”  Comprehension has two facets:  extracting meaning and constructing meaning.  Extracting meaning from a text at the most basic level – literal comprehension – involves enumerating the key facts, opinions, or ideas in expository texts or retelling a narrator…constructing meaning, a process whereby the reader brings a unique set of experiences and knowledge to the text and, from reading and interacting with peers and teachers, develops new (to the reader) insights and ideas that help affix the reading experience in long-term memory.

First, teacher chooses a small passage and divides it into chunks, develops a guiding question, analyzes each sentence, and

Page 30

Page 30

concludes with a sentence summary of how the text answers that guiding question.  See sample from the book at right.  Here’s a link to a blank template (must create a free account first).

This model coincides well with the Gradual Release Model, which I highly encourage, support, and do my best to implement (great article here on this topic).  Thus, for that “chunked” text above, I deviate a bit…and would arrange the analysis of texts in this manner:  model the first chunk, have the students complete the next chunk in groups, and then complete the last chunk individually.  This method, so powerful, does encourage fewer texts being read due to the time commitment to complete.

Future Use

Yes, this is a strategy I can easily utilize as we analyze a text  I would also use this when analyzing author’s choices, especially discussing the reason for including the sentences where we answered “no” under the Decide column.

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Feeling Inadequate

June 12, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

After a week’s break from school, I began teaching for our local college’s Upward Bound Math and Science program in which they offer ACT English/Reading and English Skills class.  Again, this year, I am working with the incoming  twelfth grade level students.  During the first week of the program, we cover ACT prep skills…five days, five hours.  Here, I feel so inadequate.

First, the students scores are all over the place.

Second, we prep for both English and reading…in five days.

Third…no need for a third, for the first two have me gasping and, what I call, hodge-podging.  Talking faster than I should, I attempt to cover as many tips as possible, knowing that I am just barely touching the tip of that iceberg, never minding what falls below this test-prepping body of water!

Located here is what I have created over the last few years:  a four-week plan (now, I realize how nice that time was!) and our current four-week plan (stress!).  Here, you may find a five-week plan I used for ACT Prep for our high school students (we met in the mornings before school).

The bigger picture?  The students are also receiving prep sessions via the program.  The even bigger picture, though, reveals a feeling that must be similar to my students who feel overwhelmed in class.  So much to cover.  So much to do. Understanding bits.  Never seeing the whole iceberg.

This fall, I, again, will teach English 12.  The bigger picture (that entire iceberg), though, is that many of the “smart” kids are in AP Lang/Lit, and several of our students take English 101/102 at the local university, thereby receiving credit for English 12 also.  This takes the tip off the GPA iceberg, leaving many of those students I described above sitting in my classes, resulting in my needing to plan even more diligently how to reach those students who just don’t quite get it…those who will tell you, “English is just not my favorite class.”

That saying “You live and you learn” is just so true!

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A New Year

June 2, 2014 · No Comments · English 12

Today began our summer break.

Today also began the first day of the 2014-2015 school year.  Yes, indeed.

You see, today, I completed my first summer read, and in that read, I found a theme I hope to use with my students next year….on page 300 of Richard Paul Evans’ Walking on Water:

Every now and then people ask me about my walk.  They seem surprised or amazed by it; not seeing that it’s really no different than what they do every day.  Whether we realize it or not, we are all on a walk.  And, like me on my journey, none of us know what experiences we’ll face or who we’ll meet along our road. The best we can do is set our hearts on a mark in the distance and try to make it.  For some the road will seem long, while for others, it will end all too soon.  There will be days of clear skies and pleasant walking, and there will be long, bitter stretches trudged through storms.  But either way we must walk.  It’s what we were made for.

Now sure yet exactly how I will incorporate this throughout the year, but the vision has begun.  May start with a new painting for my classroom.  Maybe find a theme song that contains the same theme.  Maybe…

Today, our first day of summer break…also, the first day to begin planning anew.

PS…Evans’ The Walk series is soooo good.  I would hope that you might consider reading this series this summer…enjoy!

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Poem 12: To the Birthday Boy

April 12, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Today’s NaPoWriMo’s Challenge:  a “replacement” poem. Pick a common noun for a physical thing, for example, “desk” or “hat” or “bear,” and then pick one for something intangible, like “love” or “memories” or “aspiration.” Then Google your tangible noun, and find some sentences using it. Now, replace that tangible noun in those sentences with your intangible noun, and use those sentences to create (or inspire) a poem.

Instead of this poem, I wrote a poem for my brother whose birthday is tomorrow.

To Many More

It’s your birthday!
So just let me say…
You are the best brother ever
(Nor will we mention you are the only one, however)!

This must be number 46.
This is easy for me to predict
Since you and I were nearly twins,
But fortunately the older date I win
And also in age, height, and hair,
In all else, I declare…
It’s your birthday,
Today, you simply must rank
In looks, smarts, and humor, too!
Wishing you, all the day through…
A HaPpy Birthday.
May all great wishes come your way!



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Poem #11: No Drink Needed

April 11, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Today’s NaPoWriMo’s Challenge:   write about wine-and-love. Of course, you may have no love of wine yourself, in which case you might try an anti-Anacreontic poem. Happy writing!


No Drink Needed

Love I have
With many in my life.

Appreciation I have
For many in my life.

The husband:
My true love.
My best friend.
My rock.

The daughter, son, and daughter:
All three.
All individual.
All growing, maturing, becoming.

The siblings:
Judy, the older.
Janet, the tweener.
Joe, the baby.
All J’s.
All the same.
All different.

My peers.
They challenge me.
They support me.
They encourage growth in me.

My church family.
My spiritual moms, dads.
My spiritual brothers, sisters.
My friends.

My neighbors.
Many family.
Much support from all.

Loved I am.

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Poem #10: Giving of You

April 10, 2014 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Today’s NaPoWriMo’s Challenge:   write your own advertisement-poem. You don’t need to advertise Burma-Shave. Any product (or idea) will do. Perhaps you could write a poem advertising poetry? It certainly could use the publicity!

Giving of You

Give the gift of life
By signing on the line.
Your designated time we will note,
For which you may gloat.
Five lives you will save.
This day for being brave,
We brag on you.
As your good deeds accrue,
Don’t forget to add this good deed
To your resume, reflecting appeasing others’ needs.

Feel good
For giving as you should?

For giving the gift of life
On April 15,
When all good deeds are definitely seen.

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Poem #9: My Inspiration

April 9, 2014 · No Comments · National Poetry Month, Poetry

Today’s NaPoWriMo’s Challenge:  take any random song play list (from your iPod, CD player, favorite radio station, Pandora or Spotify , etc.) and use the next five song titles on that randomized list in a poem.

My Inspiration

“Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone”

Free from the past,
Liberated at last.

“Behold the Lamb”

Thanks to the price,
He gave all so precise.

“Cast My Cares”

He asks me to trust;
This now, for me, is a must.

“Come Just As You Are”

My choice:  He my all.
My sins never to recall.

“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”

This journey I will make
My salvation secure because of his stake.

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Poem #8

April 8, 2014 · No Comments · National Board, National Poetry Month

Today’s Challenge Topic:  rewrite a famous poem, giving it your own spin. While any famous poem will do, if you haven’t already got one in mind, why not try your own version of Cesar Vallejo’s Black Stone Lying on a White Stone? If you’re not exactly sure how such a poem could be “re-written,” check out this recent poem by Stephen Burt, which riffs on Vallejo’s.

Since this topic did not speak to me, here’s one of my own…









John Dudley.


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